Regardless of whether we are ready or not, life has a way of simply moving forward. We may want to hold onto today, but – by tomorrow – today will be gone. The past comes so quickly. Stop – there…that is now in the past. We cannot do anything about it. The moment is gone, and we are in the now. The more we try to hang on to the past, the less likely we are to see the now.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot go back and capture the past.
I have now been to and have returned from my 20th high school reunion. The planning committee worked very hard to create the best possible reunion, and nearly one half of my graduating class turned out for the event. Before I arrived at the first event on Friday night, I was so sick to my stomach with anxiety. As I spoke with others, I realized that I was not the only one who felt this way. It was hard for us to know what it would be like to see each other again after – for many of us – twenty years (or ten if we attended the last reunion…).
Many of us would not do high school again if given the choice.
In speaking with many people, I came to realize that I was not one of the few who found high school as a difficult experience. I had guessed this, but it kept being confirmed over and over again. Many of us had walked out of the graduation ceremony and had just kept walking. A few attempts at getting together or communicating had occurred, but we many of us had pretty much built lives separate from the high school experience. And we were not sure what it would mean or be like to go back.
Others had stayed very connected with their high school friends. Some had continued with the friendships that they had even as they added new friends from other experiences – many of them had remained in our hometown, but that was not required for them to be in this group . It was obvious, to me at least, that this group to which I did not relate experienced something different at the reunion than what I was experiencing. Without spending a great deal of time with a good number of these classmates, I would not know how this occurred, why this occurred, and if this meant that they enjoyed the reunion more.
Either way – there was one thing that I realized very quickly: none of us can go back to the way it was in high school.
None of us (especially me as I was never good at this) will don cheerleading outfits again. Few of us will pursue the sports that we (they – I am not an athlete!) had pursued in high school. Many of us have learned to navigate social situations better than we did in high school. Some of us moved very far away from “home” as classmates came from both near and far away places such as Holland, Australia, and Alaska (North Pole, AK, at that!). Regardless of the physical distance between us all, distance created by time and different life experiences is still there.
This has changed us.
We are not the same people. We have grown up in the sense that we are more confident in ourselves. We have moved on and created lives that, for many, are full of fulfilling careers, families, and hobbies. We have become comfortable in our own skin, and we are – for the most part – happy with what we have become.
While we may or may not recognize each other, while we may or may not keep in touch, and while we may or may not have many positive memories of the past, we must recognize that we share the past. For some us, we share thirteen years of public school history. This fact holds us together, and that is important. This fact is what brings us together at reunion time, and that fact is important. This fact is what – most likely – drives us to seek each other’s friendship on Facebook.
Side note: Oh – yes – I would guess that a certain amount of healthy curiosity is also at the foundation of that.
We cannot go back, but we can move forward.
We may not all become great friends in the way that we were in high school (for some that may be a blessing). We may not even talk with some people again until our 30th reunion. But we do not need to be sick to our stomachs as that reunion approaches. Connecting with our past reminds us of who we are and from whence (I like using that word!) we came. In addition, it helps us to pave our futures because we can move forward with a renewed perspective.
Seeing classmates again, though scary for me at first, was a good experience, and – from the Facebook posts – it looks as though that was true for many. As move away from this weekend, it will be interesting to see how the next ten years will differ from the past twenty. Will social media keep us connected in ways that we have not experienced before? Will this be a positive thing for us?
As we move forward, my hope is that we will constantly encourage each other to be more than we were twenty years ago, ten years ago, and today.